Green Power Begins at Home

Monroe Carrell

Illustration by Normand Cousineau

Although manufacturers are responsible for much of the greenhouse-gas emissions in the United States, individuals largely contribute to the problem of climate change, too. So what can be done about it?

A diverse group of experts at Vanderbilt University has created the Climate Change Research Network, which combines researchers from the areas of earth and environmental sciences, political science, law, engineering, business, management, economics and nursing to investigate one of the most important and most widely overlooked sources of greenhouse gases: individual behavior.

“The Climate Change Research Network is an interdisciplinary team conducting research to understand the magnitude of the contribution from individuals and households,” says Michael Vandenbergh, professor of environmental law. “Our goal is to identify the legal, economic and social responses that can generate effective, low-cost emissions reductions by those individuals and their families in their everyday lives.”

Network participants are examining questions such as: Which individual behaviors release the greatest amounts of greenhouse-gas emissions? How do people perceive and value climate-change risks, particularly when they are remote? What changes in the administration and staffing of government agencies will be required if climate-change laws and policies are adopted?

The Climate Change Research Network is in the early stages of establishing a national and international network of researchers to help answer questions that policymakers and other individuals may have regarding what they can do in their day-to-day lives to shrink their carbon footprint.

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